Behavioural changes in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy

Publication date 25th September 2019
Authors F Watson, R M A Packer, Clare Rusbridge, H A Volk


Breed-specific and broader cohort studies have shown behavioural changes in dogs following the onset of idiopathic epilepsy (IE).


A cross-sectional, case–control questionnaire study was carried out to strengthen this body of evidence. Owners of eight breeds of dog completed an online questionnaire about their dogs’ behaviour; once for control dogs and twice for dogs with IE, for both pre-IE and post-IE onset behaviour.


Ninety-six (24.74 per cent) dogs with IE and 292 (75.26 per cent) age and breed-matched control dogs met the inclusion criteria. Control dogs had significantly higher ‘Trainability’ scores than dogs with IE (P=0.04). After IE, dogs had significantly higher ‘Dog-Directed Fear or Aggression’ (P=0.02), ‘Non-Social Fear’ (P=0.01), ‘Attachment/Attention-Seeking Behaviour’ (P=0.04), ‘Attention-Deficit’ (P=0.02) and significantly lower ‘Trainability’ (P=0.02) than prior to the onset of IE. Medication status did not significantly affect any behavioural factor, but drug-resistant dogs had significantly less ‘Trainability’ than drug-responsive (P=0.04) and partially drug-responsive dogs (P=0.03).


Behavioural differences related to cognitive function are seen between dogs with IE and controls. Behavioural changes related to anxiety, attention and cognition are seen in dogs following the onset of IE. The ability to clinically define and diagnose behavioural comorbidities in dogs is much needed from both a clinical and research perspective.